Eleven fishermen have tested positive for coronavirus while quarantining in a New Zealand hotel, ending the country’s second extended streak of zero cases.
The workers reportedly flew in from Moscow via Singapore on Friday, and are among 440 fishermen from Russia and Ukraine currently quarantining in Christchurch’s Sudima Hotel.
All of the men are believed to have tested negative for the virus before leaving their countries. A further 14 cases from within the group are also now “under investigation”, the country’s Health Ministry has said.
The 11 new cases were discovered during “routine” coronavirus testing and, as a result, the hotel was put into lockdown on Tuesday.
“All are imported cases detected at routine Day 3 testing. None involve cases in the community,” the Health Ministry told the New Zealand Herald.
The ministry said the containment of the virus, to the hotel, was “an example of our border controls working as they should”.
“All relevant public health measures are being taken. At facilities, strict infection, prevention and control processes are followed to minimise the risk to public and staff,” it added.
The government’s head of managed isolation and quarantine, Air Commodore Darryn Webb, said the Sudima Hotel was “well set up” to contain the Covid-19 cases.
“As a precaution, the facility has been locked down with guests confined to their rooms while preparations for quarantining is undertaken,” he told the Herald.
“Additional security and nursing staff will be deployed and a special staff testing station will be established. This is to ensure safeguards are in place for staff and returnees.”
Three fishing companies — Sealord, IFL and Maruha — chartered two flights to take the seamen to New Zealand last week. As part of workers’ contracts, the companies had agreed to pay for the standard 14-day hotel quarantine costs now needed to gain entry to the country.
The fresh wave of cases comes days after Jacinda Adern, who has been internationally praised for her response to the pandemic, was re-elected as prime minister.
This is not the first time New Zealand has experienced a lengthy break from coronavirus cases, only to be left disappointed by new spikes. Following a previous 102-day streak of zero community transmission, the country was hit by outbreaks in August and September.
So far, New Zealand has reported 1,887 coronavirus cases — including 25 deaths. It has been hailed as the world’s best example in the fight against the virus.